Marisa Olson
Since the beginning
Works in Brooklyn, New York United States of America

Marisa Olson is an artist, writer, and media theorist. Her interdisciplinary work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Centre Pompidou, Tate(s) Modern + Liverpool, the Nam June Paik Art Center, British Film Institute, Sundance Film Festival, PERFORMA Biennial; commissioned and collected by the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Houston Center for Photography, Experimental Television Center, and PS122; and reviewed in Artforum, Art21, the NY Times, Liberation, Folha de Sao Paolo, the Village Voice, and elsewhere.

Olson has served as Editor & Curator at Rhizome, the inaugural curator at Zero1, and Associate Director at SF Camerawork. She's contributed to many major journals & books and this year Cocom Press published Arte Postinternet, a Spanish translation of her texts on Postinternet Art, a movement she framed in 2006. In 2015 LINK Editions will publish a retrospective anthology of over a decade of her writings on contemporary art which have helped establish a vocabulary for the criticism of new media. Meanwhile, she has also curated programs at the Guggenheim, New Museum, SFMOMA, White Columns, Artists Space, and Bitforms Gallery. She has served on Advisory Boards for Ars Electronica, Transmediale, ISEA, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, Creative Capital, the Getty Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kennedy Center, and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Olson studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, and Rhetoric & Film Studies at UC Berkeley. She has recently been a visiting artist at Yale, SAIC, Oberlin, and VCU; a Visiting Critic at Brown; and Visiting Faculty at Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and Ox-Bow. She previously taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts' new media graduate program (ITP) and was Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY-Purchase's School of Film & Media Studies. She was recently an Artist-in-Residence at Eyebeam & is currently Visiting Critic at RISD.

Putting Faith in the Internet


Depending upon the utopian or dystopian narratives to which you might subscribe, the internet is a bit like heaven or hell--with the pearly gates of cyberspace welcoming you to a world where you want for nothing or a fiery apocalyptic dungeon big enough to house all your nightmares. Either vision is intense and exactly the sort of stuff that religious iconography was once made of; yet the wide distribution of devotional messages broadcast on the web seems only to have cast a dim shadow upon the net art community. More recently, spiritualities new age and old school have been forceful fodder in contemporary art, while glossing over a true connection to the divine. Italian curator Domenico Quaranta suggests, "take Martin Kippenberger's crucified frog, for instance, or the cross submerged in the urine of Andres Serrano, or Maurizio Cattelan's Nona ora, or the Virgin Mary blackened with elephant dung by Chris Ofili, or Vanessa Beecroft's recent Madonnas. All of these works are undoubtedly imbued with their own form of 'sacredness,' yet they would hardly be hung in a church." Quaranta's exhibition, "For God's Sake," installed now at Nova Gorica, Solevenia's 9th annual Pixxelpoint festival, looks at the simultaneous increase in religion-themed work and the ever wider distribution of mass-mediated sermons and religious messages, through new technologies. The question is whether this amounts to an increase in religious devotion, or rather a diluted or muddied conflation of spiritual values in a time of mixed forms and mixed messages arriving in convergent media. As with ZKM's "Medium Religion" show, which we covered last week, Quaranta's show (and in particular his poignant curatorial statement), look at attitudinal shifts parallel to media developments. The long list of international media artists he's selected present us with mostly ...


Dear God, It's Me, Tivo


It's interesting to think of the correlations between religion and reproduction. From illuminated manuscripts to the Guttenberg Bible, sacred texts have pushed reproductive techniques forward. Electronic media have only entrenched the scenario: Televangelism, holy-rolling web rings, and spiritual podcasts might put the script in scripture, but they have also led to what some are seeing as a revival in spiritualism among online consumers, er, believers. In Karlsruhe, Germany, new media place of worship ZKM has mounted an exhibition entitled Medium Religion, which is focused on what happens when religious faith moves "from the private sphere of personal belief out into the public sphere of visual communication." The works they've included--by artists Christoph Büchel, Paul Chan, Wim Delvoye, Valie Export, Omer Fast, Boris Groys, Vitaly Komar, Beryl Korot and Steve Reich, robotlab, and many others--consider the role of images in broadcasting ideology and the structure of mass media's discourse networks. While looking at the link between world views and worldwide transmissions, the show also raises the question of what happens to "minority faiths" and how they weather a ratings or hit-driven communication economy. In addition to the many art projects included, the show features a number of "documentary installations" that provide evidence of spiritual transmissions' popularity, ranging from a roundup of Osama Bin Laden's video messages to episodes of Paul Eugene's Gospel Aerobics. But that raises another question... If the body is a temple, what would god make of the new flesh? - Marisa Olson

Image: Valie Export, Ingrid and Oswald Wiener, Das Unsagbare Sagen, 1992

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Viva Cyborg Theory


Donna Haraway once wrote, in her infamous "Cyborg Manifesto," of the idea that there were no separations between bodies and objects. Our life force flows through us and out into the objects we make, she reasoned; thus there ought to be no distinction between the so-called real or natural organisms that nature produces and the artificial machines that humans make. Her conclusion: We are all cyborgs. While this theory was developed prior to the internet's big boom (in 1991, presumably before the word "cyborg" took on the stale whiff it has now), and explicitly as a means of wresting feminism from the binary system in which she saw it entrenched, it turns out that it applies very well to the work of a net art boys club that calls themselves "Neenstars." In 2000 the group was so determined to set themselves apart from the existing paradigm of media art discourse that they hired a Silicon Valley branding firm to invent a new name for them and what they do. The resulting word, "Neen" has been used by the boys (and a few girls along the way) to refer to their work and practice, which revolves around replication and the exploration of an ever-upgraded series of machines. It's all spelled out in their manifesto, in which they say, "Our official theories about reality--quantum physics, etc.--prove that the taste of our life is the taste of a simulation. Machines help us feel comfortable with this condition: they simulate the simulation we call Nature." Open now at Brussels' think.21 Contemporary Gallery is a show of the work of Neen godfathers Andreas Angelidakis, Miltos Manetas, and Angelo Plessas. It won't surprise you that their work moves fluidly through media that includes paintings, web animations, photos, and architectural structures. More ...


One Thousand and One Biennials



Does anyone know how many biennials there are in the world, now? There is a whole sub-field of biennial studies that looks at such issues as the economic impacts of the shows on their host cities and the artists' market values, or the relationship between Eastern biennials and Westernization. Of course, the latter question hinges on whether the show is called a "biennial" or a "biennale"... The truth is, there are now so many of these that it's easy to overlook them. Even the fledging field of electronic art has a few! But Sweden's Electrohype is a unique one, bringing ambitious installations to the beautiful Malmö Konsthall. Now in its fifth incarnation, the show draws large audiences but avoids the temptation to be a mega-show, instead opting to give serious space and consideration to good work by often more emerging artists. Electrohype 08 features ten international artists whose projects focus on "ongoing processes and time." These are Doug Back (CA), Ralf Baecker (DE), Serina Erfjord (NO), Kerstin Ergenzinger (DE), Jessica Field (CA), Voldemars Johansons (LV), Diane Morin (CA), Kristoffer Myskja (NO), Erik Olofsen (NL), and Bill Vorn (CA). While time and endurance are age-old themes in the modern art world, there's not a usual suspect in the bunch! Nonetheless, there is due notice paid to the histories and influences traced by the show. For instance, Doug Back's Sticks (1979) is showing aside Ralf Baecker's Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space) (2007). Despite a large difference in scale and nearly thirty years between them, both are kinetic sculptures fleshing out what it means to compute and how mechanics might be used to reflect upon human movement. Ironically, the big piece looks at micro-motions within the body and the smaller one looks at social interaction! Other interesting works include ...


The Real McCoys


Jennifer and Kevin McCoy are a married couple of New York-based artists whose collaborative work conveys a love of film and televised narratives. Their early projects embodied database aesthetics as they chopped shows like 8 is Enough, Kung Fu, and Starsky and Hutch into short clips, often inviting viewers to rearrange them according to what we'd now call metadata. For instance, one could choose from a bank of DVDs in their Every Shot, Every Episode to watch every occurrence of the color blue, or of extreme close-ups. More recent works have entailed building elaborate miniature film sets, complete with working cameras, to shoot microfilms. In the case of High Seas, the set is a sort of kinetic sculpture in its own right, mimicking its subject as it moves around to create shots of the famed Titanic loosing its footing on the ocean. The role of filmic media in mythologizing the ill-fated boat is of course implicit in the installation. While these projects have always been infused with a sense of subjectivity, as the artists perform their fandom through their selective decisions, lately their work has incorporated more explicitly autobiographical elements. Their piece, Our Second Date, for instance, is a miniature movie set which features the artists watching the film from their second date, Weekend, reenacted through a mobile sculpture and video streamed live to a tiny screen. The choice to position themselves as spectators within their own reality, and moreover to confess that their romance budded around screen pleasure opens up a number of interpretations of their ongoing work and paves the way to their newest project, which opens November 22nd at Postmasters Gallery. In I'll Replace You, the artists again place themselves at center stage, without stepping in front of the camera. Instead, a series of different ...